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Archive for the ‘Kelsey Lu’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KLESEY LU-NonCOMM 2019 (May 15, 2019).

I had just listened to a few songs from Lu’s album Blood and now here she is at NonComm.

It’s hard to guess what the crowd was expecting when they saw Kelsey Lu‘s six-piece band waiting for her on stage. Or when they saw her, with flowing black, red, and orange hair, and ring laden gloves. Despite what they assumed she would sound like, she dazed everyone with her ethereal four song set this evening on the NPR stage.

According to the blurb, she started with a song that’s not on the player.

Lu started, just her and her keyboardist, with the title track of her debut album Blood, which was released in April via Columbia records. The song is a touching tribute to the love that permeates all. She delivered it with such conviction, as did her band, who gradually all joined in.

From “Blood” she swerved straight into the glitter of “Due West” and got the crowd moving along with her.  “Due West” starts quietly with strings but the song adds a  super catchy melody as it bridges into the chorus which brings an even catchier hook.  The recorded version is very poppy, but live, the pop elements have been stripped out somewhat.

Lu is most known for her work as a cellist.  Tonight however, Lu did not touch a cello once. The focus was on her mind bending and majestic voice. She mostly sang with her eyes closed, showing that regardless of the fact that she performs them every night, these songs still affect her as much as they do her audiences. The cello was not entirely absent, as one of her band members impressively played an electric one. Another demonstrated expertise of the violin, especially during the dramatic and sultry “Foreign Car.”

“Foreign Car” opens with wavering synth stabs and creepy strings.  It has a catchy fluttery chorus which I rather like.  I also really like the interesting electronic sounds that are added.

The last song of the set, the shimmering “Poor Fake,” Lu introduced as her ode to disco and dance.

She said “I don’t know if any of you grew up around the disco era.”  The crowd mutters.  She is the most animated of the night when she says, C’mon I know some of you did.  I didn’t, but I’m a big fan.  This was an opportunity to have an ode to disco.”

The somber strings that start the track then caught the crowd off guard. Once the beat kicked in, all doubts and confusion were whisked away.

The bass and drums are pure disco and her voice seems to reach back to Donna Summer.

As Lu’s voice did acrobatics, her hair put on a show of its own. She tossed it back and forth, making her floor-length orange braid whip ferociously, matching the melodrama of the song.

Who would he ever guessed she could hit such impressive high notes based on the quiet of the other songs.

Lu’s record is interesting, but it sounds like her live show is where it’s at.

[READ: May 20, 2019] “Personal Archeology”

It’s coincidental that the story I read for yesterday was about old photos and a person’s history.  This story is also about history, but it is the history of a place.

I really enjoyed this personal archaeology because I have had a similar experience finding old things on our property.

Fritz Martin was older now–his golfing buddies had died or were not playing as much.  So he had a lot of free time. He spent it looking for the traces that the previous owners of his house had left behind.

He imagined there were four eras of the house’s history. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KELSEY LU-“Due West” (2019).

I hadn’t intended to listen to so much of the Kelsey Lu album, but the third track was the one produced by Skrillex and I was curious what it would sound like.

I was expecting something very dancey and poppy.  It is nowhere near as over the top as I would have imagined.  Rather, it has a wonderful subtle hook in the bridge just because she sings a few words faster than the other.  Nearly everything else she sings is soft and slow, this little uptick is really cool.

Of the three songs, this is certainly the peppiest. It has some catchy electronic drums and definitive dance quality.  It’s still remarkably understate.

But i can see that the whole album could have sounded very different had she picked different producers.

The song ends with a surprisingly long guitar passage.  It is gentle and sweet with what sounds like crickets playing in the background.

I really don;t know all that much about Skrillex, but I think he’s a wild dancey EDM kinda guy.  The little I know leaves me astonished that he could produce something so subtle and pretty.

[READ: May 1, 2019] “Addis Ababa, 1977”

This is an excerpt from the novel The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears.

It is a horrifying example of what it was like to grow up in Ethiopia in 1977.

The bedroom is a wreck and letters are scattered all over.  He will forever be able to see the room, the house, like this.

Soldiers have arrived. The house guards had already left (begging forgiveness as they fled).  There are three soldiers in the house and at least four waiting in the truck,

The lead solider pushes his father in to the room, considering him weak and vulnerable.  The soldiers can’t be more than a year or two older than the narrator. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KELSEY LU-“Pushin Against the Wind” (2019).

The Kelsey Lu album has a song produced by Skrillex, and I was really surpirsed at how gentle the first song on the album was.  I was listening on Spotify and the second song started.

I was astonished how much the song sounded like a 70’s (British) folk song.

“Pushin Against the Wind” opens with a quiet, simple guitar melody.  Kelsey sings softly over the top.  The thing that sets it apart happens about a minute in when the tone changes.  She sings slightly faster and this bridge is punctuated by chunky percussion accents.  But those modern sounds are sparingly used, and this song feels delightfully timeless.

The song never gets all that big, but the end pulls the sound back even further to a simple cello and xylophone melody as she sings over the top.

This song is quite enchanting.

[READ: May 1, 2019] “The Swim Team”

This is a very short story (two pages) about the narrator living in a small town called Belvedere when she was twenty-two. The town was so small it wasn’t even a town–just houses near a gas station.

The citizens of the town thought her name was Maria and she was overwhelmed by the task of correcting people.

She knew three people: Elizabeth, Kelda and Jack Jack. (“I am not completely sure about the name Kelda, but that’s what it sounded like and that’s the sound I made when I called her name”).  They were all in their eighties at least.

There are no bodies of water or pools in Belvedere, but “Maria” gave the three of them swimming lessons.  None of the three of them could swim, and when Maria said she used to swim on her high school team, they asked her to be their coach. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KELSEY LU-“Rebel” (2019).

I saw that Kelsey Lu was playing NonCOMM this year.  I had never heard of her, but her record was getting some high praise.  Then as I was going through some older Harper’s things, I saw this story by Pamela Lu.  I quickly thought it might be the same person.  Then I double checked and of course they are different, they just have the same last name.

Kelsey Lu is a classically trained cellist and has become one of many classical performers who have migrated into the pop world.  She is certainly underplaying her chops on the record, going more for melody than virtuosity.

This piece opens with a pizzicato cello (looped I assume).  It is overlaid with a mournful melody before Kelsey sings in her quiet but affecting voice.

The song is just over three and a half minutes and it slowly builds with more and more organic sounds–strings and voices.  By the half way point, there’s echo and by the three minute mark, this quiet, almost chamber pop song has built into a full-sounding piece which just as quickly drops nearly all the music as two cellos fade the song to the end.

It’s an astonishingly pretty and subtle song to start an album that has production credits from Skrillex (on a different song).

[READ: April 24, 2019] “Ambient Parking Lot”

I started reading this excerpt and thought it might have had something to do withe The Flaming Lips’ Parking Lot Experiments:

During 1996 and 1997, The Flaming Lips ran a series of events known as “The Parking Lot Experiments”. The concept was inspired by an incident in Coyne’s youth, where he noticed that car radios in the parking lot at a concert were playing the same songs at the same time, Wayne Coyne created 40 cassette tapes to be played in synchronization. The band invited people to bring their cars to parking lots, where they would be given one of the tapes and then instructed when to start them. The music was “a strange, fluid 20 minute sound composition.”  [from Wikipedia]

I’ll assume there is some kernel of something, maybe, that inspired this, frankly, disappointing piece.

It begins by talking about the recording of “Ambient Parking #25.”

With just a little filtering, the empty landscape managed to express its industrially generated solipsism and came to overshadow even the engine gunning and trunk popping of SUVs.

The seven inch vinyl was released two weeks later on an indie label.

It was a huge success compared to attempts 1-24 and inspired them to make a full album. (more…)

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